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Ex-Heads Say They Got Byrned : Split Still Miffs Frantz, Weymouth, Even Though Tom Tom Club Keeps Them Busy

September 10, 1992|MIKE BOEHM

They say that breaking up is hard to do.

But getting dumped is harder--especially when you get dumped the way Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth say they got dumped by their old comrade, David Byrne.

After more than three years working apart from the other members of Talking Heads, Byrne made the break official last December by uttering this sentence for The Times' Sunday Calendar Pop Eye column:

"You could say (we've) broken up, or call it whatever you like."

Frantz and Weymouth say that was news to them. The husband-and-wife team had formed its own band, Tom Tom Club, in 1980 to take up some of the considerable slack between Heads projects. But Frantz and Weymouth, along with the fourth Head, Jerry Harrison, had no desire to see Talking Heads end.

The couple--Frantz plays drums, Weymouth plays bass and sings--are carrying on with a new Tom Tom Club album, "Dark Sneak Love Action," and a tour that brings the band to the Coach House tonight. But speaking over the phone last week from the Fairfield, Conn., home where they live with their two young sons and a nanny, Frantz and Weymouth were clearly full of unresolved feelings.

Breaking up is hardest to do when there is no face-to-face chance to laugh, cry, reason, curse, scream, accuse, soothe, exchange parting hugs or engage in the myriad other possibilities of the proverbial exit encounter. And the two Tom Tom Clubbers say they haven't seen or heard from the former lead Head since he declared the band finis in print. In separate interviews, Frantz and Weymouth were clearly still miffed, rankled and disappointed by Byrne's split, with Weymouth still hoping that the Head now severed might one day be reattached.

"You could say that Tina and I saw the handwriting on the wall a long time ago," because of Byrne's array of solo projects and collaborations outside the band, Frantz said. "That was one reason we were motivated to do the Tom Tom Club (the couple have also worked as a record production team and have overseen albums for Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers and Happy Mondays). But we were shocked to find out about (Byrne's departure) via the Los Angeles Times. As far as we're concerned, the band never really broke up. David just decided to leave.

"We were never too pleased about the way David handled the situation," Frantz added. "Communicating with other people has never been David's forte, at least not on a personal level. We've kept a very low profile about this whole thing. We feel like David Byrne's a very good artist. We're just sorry that, you know, he didn't really understand what he had, maybe. But then again, maybe he did, but he didn't like it anymore. He doesn't communicate with us, anyhow, so I don't really know how he feels about it.

"I'm afraid the ball is in his court" as far as renewing relations, musical or otherwise, Frantz concluded. "I just feel, (if) David doesn't want to do it, let's get it on with somebody else. We're really concentrating on the Tom Tom Club right now, trying to have some fun."

"Dark Sneak Love Action," Tom Tom Club's fourth album, serves up the cheerful, dance-party funk 'n' roll for which the band has become known. But there is also a troubled undercurrent to several of the songs, a sense that Tom Tom Club isn't just dancing for the pure enjoyment of it, but to escape or overcome some of life's darker realities.

"I was trying to get out of darkness," Weymouth, who writes the band's lyrics, said in explaining that darker streak in the songwriting. "We've been in a real bummed-out way--I think a lot of people have. It's just the world, and I felt we wouldn't contribute anything by (being negative). There's a lot of pain (on the album). It's about pain overcome. It was true of the other (albums) as well, but I guess it just didn't show. 'Genius of Love' (a Top 40 hit for Tom Tom Club in 1982) is about incredible pain overcome; it's all (about) cocaine and jail and our black heroes who have been put down."

Weymouth paused in the interview and confessed that she was having trouble discussing her songs. She said she was still feeling shaken by events earlier in the day, when the nanny who watches out for sons Robin, 9, and Egan, 6, had an accident on the Connecticut Turnpike, totaling the family Honda but escaping without serious injury. And, with an ironic bite entering her voice, Weymouth said she is more comfortable talking about a certain other singer-lyricist than she is talking about her own work.

"For years," Weymouth said, "people only asked me about David, and I was good at that. It was a story I knew how to tell."

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